Best & worst writings by Trotsky or Trotskyists

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Ugg's picture
Ugg
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Jul 24 2019 19:33

"State Capitalism in Russia" by Tony Cliff.

This book has a lot of information about income inequality during the reign of Stalin and also stuff about how factory directors would receive bonuses and part of the profits for exceeding quotas

Here are a few quotes:

Quote:
For instance, in 1937, when plant engineers were earning 1,500 roubles a month, directors 2,000 roubles – unless the government gave special permission for more to be earned – and skilled workers 200-300 roubles, the Soviet government introduced a minimum wage of 110 roubles a month for piece-workers and 115 roubles for timeworkers. That many workers earned only the bare minimum is clearly established by the fact that the law fixing these minima led to a budgetgrant of 600 million roubles for 1938.[196]

By comparison with such wages as these, 2,000 roubles a month was no mean salary. Not only this, but in addition to fixed salary, directors and plant engineers received bonuses, the size of which depend upon the extent to which their enterprise exceeds production quotas laid down in the economic plan..

Quote:
Bureaucrats have yet another possible source of income from various state prizes. The original decree announcing the
establishment of the Stalin Prizes in honour of the leader’s sixtieth birthday limited their value to a maximum of 100,000 roubles each.[208] The maximum has since been raised to 300,000 roubles, and each year as many as a thousand Stalin Prizes are awarded, ranging from 50,000 to 300,000 roubles each, all tax-free.

Another clear pointer to the tremendous income differences in Russia is the income tax rates. The income tax rates of 4 April 1940,
listed a range of incomes that stretched from less than 1,800 roubles a year to more than 300,000 roubles.

Quote:
In point of fact, the luxuries of the rich are relatively much cheaper than the necessities of the poor. This will be clearly perceived if we repeat a few figures of the turnover tax [...] As a result: “In mid-1948, the equivalent of the car Moskvich [costing9,000 roubles] was 310 pounds of butter [butter cost 62-66 roubles a pound], while in the United States a somewhat better car was worth
about as much as 1,750 pounds of butter.”

Quote:
The differentiation of Russian society into privileged and pariahs was shown very graphically in the rationing system during the war. A differential rationing system was introduced, a thing that no-one would have dared to suggest in the democratic capitalist states of the West. It is true that this was shocking even to the Soviet people, so much so that neither Pravda nor Izvestia mentioned the subject at all and the rationing system as a whole was shrouded in mystery.

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Aug 1 2019 06:11

The book Revolutionary Rehearsals, an anthology edited by Colin Barker.
https://www.amazon.com/Revolutionary-Rehearsals-Colin-Barker/dp/19318590...

In depth studies of France 1968, Chile 1972-3, Portugal 1974-5, Iran 1979, Poland 1980-1. Each chapter is a demonstration of the power of the working class, and the mistakes that led to the defeat of that working class power. Mistakes like believing that leftist politicians are on our side, believing that business unions are on our side, failing to see the reformist tendencies in our leadership (even leadership of independent working class organizations), and various other mistakes.

I agree with their analysis almost completely, except the one point that they keep pounding in repeatedly: that what is needed to avoid future failure is a revolutionary working class vanguard party to lead the way.

I would tweak that lesson to say that a revolutionary *organization* is important in providing some sort of leadership role, but that this should be a leadership of ideas, not a leadership of decision making, and of course that this organization should never seek to take any sort of state power.

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Aug 1 2019 06:16

Just checked out the amazon customer reviews and found one with the same take as me:

Quote:
The book is ultimately a cautionary tale against the betrayal by reformists who time and again try to keep a lid on the revolutionary impulse and channel mass struggle into the killing fields of bourgeois party politics.

The authors harp over and over, though, on a more suspect lesson, the one they claim is the most pressing: the need for a vanguard party to lead the workers in their struggles. I look at ISO/SWP Trotskyist literature much the same way as the Wall Street Journal: learn from the carefuly researched factual accounts, and through the editorials in the dustbin.

For a non-vanguardist account of Paris '68, the essays Murray Bookchin's terrifiic "Post-Scarcity Anarchism" are well worth reading. Also, I have heard that Loren Goldner's book on Portugal is excellent, presenting the events from a left-communist perspective.

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Aug 1 2019 18:55

I know people recommend CLR James a lot, also Hal Draper - "anatomy of the micro-sect" is one people talk about but I've not read myself, I have read "the two souls of socialism" which neatly shows Trotskyism at its strongest and weakest: there's a really good critique of Stalinism and top-down social democracy/reformism, then to make the argument work he has to throw in "also anarchism is authoritarian because Proudhon was bad and Bakunin was racist therefore Leninism/Trotskyism is the true libertarian socialism".
Victor Serge wasn't quite a Trot, but close enough, and his novels are great, and his writings from the height of the revolution are a good document.
Worst: too many to name, but off the top of my head Sean Matgamna's poetry, the AWL running a Latin headline in their paper, the SP giving space to the PCS leadership to justify calling off a strike the membership had voted for, Socialist Fight's "victory to ISIS", etc etc.

Mike Harman
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Aug 1 2019 19:00

CLR James was only Trotskyist for about 15-20 years, although he never quite broke with Lenin.

Hal Draper's Anatomy of the Micro-Sect is relatively short and very good, and also has lessons for anarchist groups i.e. the difference between a 'political centre' (journal, publication) vs. a membership organisation is a good and useful distinction to think about. It also has some parallels to the Facing Reality discussion of a 'workers paper'.

I like Baruch Hirson's work a lot although he was mentioned upthread too.

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Noah Fence
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Aug 4 2019 06:14

I heard that Trotsky once wrote a nice letter to his mum.

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R Totale
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Aug 4 2019 09:28

As opposed to Sean Matgamna, who once wrote a very bad letter to his mum.

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explainthingstome
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Aug 4 2019 11:48

I haven't actually read it but Trotsky wrote in 1904 a critique of leninism where he may have predicted the future course of the Bolsheviks?

Here's a quote:

"In the internal politics of the Party these methods lead, as we shall see below, to the Party organisation “substituting” itself for the Party, the Central Committee substituting itself for the Party organisation, and finally the dictator substituting himself for the Central Committee..."

The whole text:

marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1904/tasks/index.htm

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Aug 4 2019 17:56
explainthingstome wrote:
I haven't actually read it but Trotsky wrote in 1904 a critique of leninism where he may have predicted the future course of the Bolsheviks?

That was pretty much the standard Menshevik position at the time. Trotsky only became a Bolshevik in 1917.

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explainthingstome
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Aug 4 2019 18:14

I'm aware of that, I used to be a trotskyist actually. I read a lot of his works but I don't remember much.